Thursday March 31, 2005
Â· You know that kid who spoils everyone else’s enjoyment of sci-fi movies by sitting there in his glasses saying things like: “Well I don’t see how that force field can stop those laser beams from getting through because you can still see the spaceship on the other side of it, and they’re both just electromagnetic radiation with very similar wavelengths ie the visual range known to earthlings as light …”? That’s you, that is. And we love you for it.
Â· So a special geeky thanks goes to Steven Wallbridge for his heads up about some Bad Science that even appeared in the trailers for the new Dr Who. And lo, on Saturday, in the first episode of the new series, after a big long speech banging on about that sudden moment of enlightenment when you’re a kid and you realise that the natural world isn’t quite how it seems on the surface, and how he can feel things moving that we can’t, Dr Who announces with an air of wonder and awe: “The ground beneath our feet … is moving at a thousand miles an hour!”
Â· Now, putting our spectacles on and preparing for a well-deserved kicking from the other people on the sofa, I can vaguely remember that the Earth is about 8,000 miles across. Multiply that by pi, which is about 3.14, and you get about 25,000 miles for the circumference of the Earth, which just about makes sense when you think about how far away Australia is and stuff like that. Anyway, the Earth rotates through 25,000 miles once in every 24 hours, and that’s what gives us day and night. Isn’t the Bible fascinating? Oh sorry, that wasn’t in the Bible. Anyway, divide 25,000 by 24 and you get 1,041 miles an hour.
Â· You don’t need to be a Timelord to work that out. Except that Dr Who was in Britain when he said it, and the Earth rotates at different speeds at different latitudes: 1,000mph at the equator, but a whole lot slower than that in Shepherd’s Bush, as the average 14-year-old could have told you. In fact, with a quick bit of trig, I make it around 650mph. If I cocked up, I hope I at least get marks for showing my working out. Reader Steven Wallbridge goes on: “I note that Sylvester McCoy has much enjoyed the new Dr Who, and has reacted happily to a return to its ‘Reithian’ ideals of educating as well as entertaining.” Oh yes. I’d like to be educated about science by a bunch of humanities graduates in the BBC Drama Department, please.